The 2017 U.S. Championships will likely be remembered as the event that changed the landscape of American men’s figure skating.
Nathan Chen, 17, blazed a trail of technical mastery that had never been seen before, landing a combined seven quadruple jumps in the men’s event in Kansas City — more than any other man in history has done to date.
And along the way, he became the first American man to break 300-point barrier, albeit domestically.
Chen fired off five quadruple jumps with ease in the free — Lutz (in combination with a triple toe), a flip, two toe loops (the first in combination with a double toe-double loop), and a Salchow. He is the first skater in history to land a quint of quads in one program. With each successful landing Chen’s confidence seemed to soar, and as the crowd response grew in volume, he appeared to relax more and more. The Kansas City audience was on its feel 30 seconds before the end of his long program.
“It was amazing. I landed all the jumps that I set out to do and increased the technical value of my program from the (Grand Prix) Final by adding the Salchow,” Chen said. “Accomplishing that was huge for me, so I am very happy for that.”
His point total of 318.47 set a U.S. Championships record, besting the old mark by more than 45 points.
Skating immediately after Chen was 17-year-old Vincent Zhou who skated an impressive program in its own right, landing two quadruple jumps. He earned 263.03 points. “I’m still kind of in shock that I got second,” he said. “Coming here I didn’t expect to be on the podium. I’m kind of surprised at the score I received. I can’t really complain much.”
Finishing in the bronze medal position was the 2015 champion, Jason Brown, who earned 248.31 points. Though he is still recovering from a hairline fracture in his right fibula that limited his preparations leading up to this competition, Brown landed six triple jumps including two Axels.
“I feel like I learn so much from performances like these,” he said. “You have to fight through, and you have to push kind of beyond what you think you can do and what you have been training. I’m super, super excited that I was able to put something commendable out there.”
Finishing fourth for the second year in a row was Grant Hochtstein, who attempted two quadruple jumps but landed only one. His final jump — a triple Lutz was ruled invalid, otherwise the 26-year-old might have won the bronze medal. He finished with 248.31 points.
Second after the short, Ross Miner plummeted to fifth place with 240.34 points after a sloppy free skate. The former World team member was unable to connect on a triple Axel and botched an opening quadruple Salchow attempt.
Last year’s silver medalist and 2013 champion Max Aaron moved up from 12th after the short program to finish in a disappointing ninth place.
Nathan Chen’s free skate at the 2017 U.S. Championships: